Plea for airport tests to kickstart UK-US trade

Airlines want British and US governments to introduce testing at airports to end quarantine and unlock £200bn in trade between the nations

Some of the world’s biggest airlines have called on the British and US governments to introduce testing at airports to end quarantine and help unlock £200billion in trade between the two nations. 

Industry heavyweights have written to the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, his US counterpart Elaine Chao and the acting US homeland security chief Chad Wolf demanding a testing trial between New York and London by the end of next month. 

Shai Weiss, the chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, and Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye are among those to have signed the letter, which has been seen by The Mail on Sunday. 

High hopes: Virgin’s Shai Weiss, right with Richard Branson, signed a letter to Ministers

The others are Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, whose members include British Airways and easyJet, and Nicholas Calio, who runs Airlines for America. They argue a trial should be established while detailed discussions are taking place on the exact testing needed.

They say such trials should focus on routes with the biggest economic impact, highlighting the £200billiona-year trade between the UK and the US. In the letter, the bosses say: ‘We believe it is vital these trials focus primarily on those markets which can quickly deliver the maximum economic impact for our recovery. 

‘Nowhere is this more evident than in the UK-US market, where air travel provides the backbone for the wide ranging and deep-rooted relationship between our two nations.’ 

They continue: ‘We therefore urge both the US and UK to work closely to deliver and establish a testing trial between New York’s Newark and JFK airports and London Heathrow by the end of September to gather real world evidence and data that can be used to scale up testing efficiently in the future. This would help align the UK and US with the ongoing progress of other nations.’ 

Earlier this month, Heathrow airport began offering tests to passengers for £150 in a move that Holland-Kaye hoped would put pressure on the British Government to lift quarantine measures.